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Published on April 22, 2020

How to Use the Law of Reciprocity for Effective Persuasion

How to Use the Law of Reciprocity for Effective Persuasion

Can you think of a time when someone did something nice to you for no apparent reason?

It may seem like this happens rarely. And maybe that is why when it does, it really stands out. When someone does something to help us in some way, we feel grateful. And when we feel grateful, we also feel like we want to do something for the other person.

What you are feeling in these situations is the law of reciprocity. This feeling that we get from wanting to help others or give them something can be a useful tool to help you achieve a goal.

Here are some ways you can use the law of reciprocity for effective persuasion.

What is the Principle of Reciprocity?

The principle of reciprocity is a term in social psychology. To put it simply, it means that if someone does something nice for you, you have the built-in tendency to want to do something nice for them.

This is apparent in almost all social situations: personal relationships, in business, familial relationships, and just about every interaction with other people.

Here is one example.

Most years, my wife and I send out holiday cards. I always ask my wife why we send them to certain people.

I always ask my wife, “why are we sending a holiday card to the Smiths?”. And she always answers, “because they send us one”, even though we have not seen them or spoken to them for over 10 years.

We feel obligated to send the Smith family a card because they send us one. They did something for us, we should do something for them.

According to Linda and Charlie Bloom from Psychology Today:

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The rule of reciprocation “has to do with the universal tendency in human beings to feel compelled to repay or reciprocate when given a gift whether it has come in the form of a material object, a kind deed, or an act of generosity. There is a strong impulse in people from all cultures to repay gifts or favors with a gift of our own to them. This impulse expresses itself in reciprocation to invitations to parties, Christmas cards, birthday presents, or acts of kindness.”[1]

Law of Reciprocity and Business

Think of the companies you do business with. This can be your job working with your vendors or partners or other businesses. It can also be the companies you do business with on a personal level – the grocery store, coffee shop, dry cleaners, etc.

In almost all cases, we work with businesses that we trust.

I mean, would you work with a company you do not trust? I know I would not.

This is exactly where the law of reciprocity comes into effect.

Build Trust

When a company is still small and looking to gain more customers, they usually give away something for free to grow their business. These could be pieces of advice or services, but most of the time these are products.

This is very evident in the software industry. The reason is simple: people see new cool software, and they want to try it out before they buy it. Getting to try it for free for 2 weeks lets them check it out, play with it, and hopefully fall in love with it.

This is why you will usually see between 40% – 60% of free trails get converted to paid subscriptions. The company shows that you should trust them and their product by providing you with a new product to try out for a while.

Show Appreciation

Now that the trust has been built, well-run businesses will show ongoing appreciation for your patronage. Again, this is the law of reciprocity coming into effect.

In a study done by the U.S. Small Business Administration, almost 68% of customers will end a business relationship if they do not feel appreciated. Compare this to the 14% who leave a company because of a poor product.[2]

When a company shows appreciation, customers feel like the company cares about them. This is why we love it when the companies give us “special discounts” for being their loyal customers.

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Incentivize Customers

This is where the referral programs come in.

How many companies do you know that will give you a $50 or $100 credit when you refer a new customer to them?

Exactly.

These kinds of programs are incredibly popular. You are doing something for the company, therefore they will do something for you. You know if you refer someone who signs up for the companies services, then the company will reward you financially. It is a great win-win situation.

How to Use the Law of Reciprocity for Effective Persuasion

Now that we know what the law of reciprocity is and how it is used in business, let us look at how we can use it for effective persuasion.

Remember, persuasion means convincing someone to do something for us.

This is not as terrible as it sounds; it is not like we are playing an elaborate game trying to be master puppeteers with other people. We all try to persuade others for things from time to time because it is human nature.

Just recently, I persuaded my boss into letting me go to a conference I wanted. The way I achieved this was by stepping up and completing a big project. I then asked about going to the conference while explaining how attending this conference will make me even better at my job. See how that worked?

Here are a few ideas for using the law of reciprocity for effective persuasion.

1. Give Something First

Being the first person to give something to someone else puts you in a position of power. It is like doing someone a favor before they ask for it. It then becomes the unwritten and unspoken rule that they “owe you”.

It does not happen as often these days, but this is the exact reason why I am the first of my friends to buy a round at a bar when we go out. You always remember who bought the first round but rarely who bought the 3rd one.

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This worked well in my example above with my boss and the conference. I gave my boss something first – a lot of assistance on a big project. My boss did not ask for my help; I volunteered it. Then a month or so after the project was complete, I asked about going to the conference.

Nothing was spoken about the extra work I did on the project, but I implied it when I stated how going to the conference would help complete similar projects more effectively down the road.

Give something first.

2. Give Something That Truly Benefits Someone

Your offer of assistance has to actually benefit the other party. If it does not, there is a chance it will feel like you are just trying to manipulate people.

Ensure that you are giving something that will help someone in a manner that comes across as no strings attached. If someone can further benefit from your product, advice or service, then you have given them a taste of what you can do.

If you have ever received an invitation in the mail for a nice steak dinner hosted by a financial advisor, you are receiving 2 things – a great meal and some financial advice.

Just about all of us can use some sound financial advice and appreciate a nice meal. Once the presentation ends and your meal starts to settle, you may start to think about how this financial advisor can help you.

This person has given you something valuable for free, now you feel somewhat obligated to do business with him or her.

3. Make It Personal

A gift coming from a personal place makes the gesture more effective than coming from a faceless corporation. This is why we see real-life stories attached to big businesses so much. Companies take themselves to a personal level we can relate to.

We relate to other human beings, not gigantic companies.

I have personally received customized return address labels from the Humane Society on numerous occasions. When I am done marveling at how nice they are, I almost always write them a donation check. They make those address labels from those cute and cuddly puppies and kittens, making it immensely personal and heart-warming.

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4. Keep the Giving Going

Now that you have given something of value to another person in a meaningful way, you will want to keep it going.

Do not just give something then walk away when you get what you want. To keep the good vibes going and continuously build goodwill, it is important to keep giving valuable things to people.

You can also change it up so it is not the same thing over and over. But the point is to continue to provide something that someone else can use.

As an example, I have been a recruiter for 15 years. Over the years, I have spoken to many people who have been laid off or downsized for one reason or another.

Many of these people have not looked for a job in a decade or longer, so they tend to flounder. Even if the skills and experience they possess are not fit for a position I am recruiting for, I am always happy to talk to them if they want to. The reason being is that I can leverage my years of recruiting experience to help them in their job search.

Talk to them about tips and ways to be more effective and get more interviews. I am not getting anything out of it, but I do it because I am knowledgeable in job searching, and my advice is helpful to people looking for a job.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the law of reciprocity can be extremely helpful for effective persuasion. It is an effective way for good companies to do business, and it is something that you and I can use in our everyday lives. It is something that can help us in our relationships and most certainly in our careers.

When you can be the first to do something nice for someone else, it can help you persuade that person to assist you in some manner that you want. It is not about getting someone to do something they would not normally do.

What you are doing is providing something beneficial to another person so when the time is right, they may provide something beneficial back to you.

It is a circle of giving where we all help each other out.

More Tips About Effective Persuasion

Featured photo credit: Chris Liverani via unsplash.com

Reference

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Mat Apodaca

On a mission to share about how communication in the workplace and personal relationships plays a large role in your happiness

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Last Updated on September 30, 2020

How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying About the Future

How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying About the Future

We often hear people talk about the importance of living in the present and the different ways it will benefit us. It all sounds wonderful, especially the lower levels of stress and anxiety, but how exactly can we live in the moment when our mind is constantly worrying about the past or plans for the future?

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the benefits of living in the moment you may not be aware of. Then, we’ll look at some of the obstacles and why we worry. Finally, and most importantly, I’ll show you how to live in the moment and stop worrying using some simple practices that you can easily incorporate into your busy schedule.

The result: a happier and more fulfilling life.

The Importance of Living in the Moment

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” -Buddha

While it can be difficult to live in the moment, it has innumerable benefits.

Here are just a few that will enhance your life tremendously:

Better Health

By reducing stress and anxiety, you avoid many of the associated health consequences, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity. Studies have shown that being present can also improve psychological well-being[1].

Improve Your Relationships

Have you ever been with someone who is physically present, but mentally s/he’s a million miles away?

Being with unavailable people is a struggle, and building relationships with them extremely difficult.

How about being with someone who is fully present? We enjoy being with her/him because we can make a much deeper connection.

By living in the moment, you can be that person other people enjoy being with, and you make relationships much easier.

Greater Self-Control

You have greater control over your mind, body, and emotions. Imagine how much better your life would be if it weren’t at the mercy of a racing mind and unpredictable emotions. You would certainly be more at peace, and much happier[2].

Why Do We Worry?

Before we answer this question, it’s important to distinguish between worry and concern.

When we are concerned about something, we are more likely dealing with a real problem with realistic solutions. Then, once we do whatever we can to address the problem, we’re willing to live with the outcome.

Worrying, on the other hand, involves unrealistic thinking. We may worry about a problem that doesn’t really exist, or dwell on all the bad things that can happen as a result. Then, we feel unable to deal with the outcome. Either way, we have difficulty dealing with uncertainty, which is a normal part of life.

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Certainly, some of our problems may not have desirable outcomes, such as a serious health issue. Some problems may be beyond our control, such as civil unrest or economic downturn. In such cases, it can be hard to avoid worrying, but not impossible.

3 Steps to Start to Live in the Moment

Step 1: Overcome Worrying

In order to overcome worrying, we need to do two things:

Calm Your Mind

When you calm your mind, you are able to see more clearly.

The reason some problems seem so daunting is that our mind is racing so fast that we cannot see things as they truly are. Then, we make up a bunch of possible scenarios in our mind, most of which are unlikely to come true.

In addition to seeing more clearly, a calm mind will help us think more realistically. Unrealistic thinking is fueled by confusion and uncontrolled emotions. Calming your mind will reduce confusion and calm your emotions, allowing you to live in the present.

Focus on Solutions Instead of Problems

Some people tend to be more solution-oriented, and others more problem-oriented. Some of the factors that may determine this are gender, upbringing, and education.

People with more education tend to be problem-solvers. That is what their years of education train them to do. In addition, their jobs probably reinforce this way of thinking.

If you’re not problem-solving oriented, don’t worry. You can train yourself to worry less. We’ll discuss that soon.

Step 2: Identify Obstacles to Living in the Moment

In today’s busy world, it can be a challenge to live in the moment. The reasons revolve around how our mind works, as well as outside influences.

Racing Mind

Many busy people have a racing mind that never seems to slow down. Their mind gets so agitated from too much sensory stimulation.

You see, anything that stimulates any of our five senses will trigger a thought, and that thought leads to another, and then another, and so on.

If you have a busy life, all your activities will overstimulate your mind and make it seemingly impossible to slow it down.

Unpleasant Situations and a Troublesome Past

None of us want to be in unpleasant situations, or remember those of the past. They can bring up painful emotions, which we don’t want to feel.

So how do most people cope with painful emotions?

By doing whatever we can to avoid them, we can take our mind to another place and time where things are more pleasant.

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In other words, we avoid living in the present moment.

Some people resort to things that stimulate sensory pleasure, such as food, alcohol, or sex. Others will consume substances that dull their mind and keep them from thinking about unpleasant or stressful situations.

A Wandering Mind

From the moment we are born (likely sooner) until the time we die, our body and mind are active performing some function. Therefore, it’s natural for our mind to have some level of activity, whether conscious or unconscious.

Generally, a wandering mind is unproductive. One thought starts an endless chain of thoughts, and this process can go on until we need our mind to perform a specific function or get distracted with something else.

Now, there are times when a wandering mind can be productive, such as when creating works of art, or trying to find creative solutions to problems. In such cases, we need our mind to explore different possibilities[3].

Outside Influences

Most of us are not fully aware of how our environment and social norms influence our thinking and behavior. People and institutions are constantly competing for our attention. The media draws our attention to the past, and advertising usually to the future[4].

Many people around us who dwell on the past or future try to draw us to their way of thinking. Even the whole concept of the American dream is geared toward the future. It tells us that if we acquire things like a good career, family, and house, then we’ll be happy.

Step 3: Practice Mindfulness

So how can we live in the moment in a world that is constantly trying to draw our attention to the past and future?

Before we get into concrete actions you can take, it’s important to understand what mindfulness is. You’ve probably heard the term before, but may not fully understand what it means.

Understand Mindfulness

The concept of mindfulness is actually quite simple. To be mindful is to live in the moment.

When you are mindful, your attention is focused on what is happening in the present moment, and you are fully in touch with reality[5].

You are aware of what is happening in your body, mind, emotions, and the world around you. This is different than thinking about these things. To develop greater understanding, you don’t have to think about them so much, but rather just observe them.

This may be counterintuitive to many people, especially intellectuals, because they’re so used to using logic to develop greater understanding. With mindfulness, we calm our mind and emotions so we can see clearer. Then, much of our understanding will come from simple observation. When we develop mindfulness, we literally expand our awareness.

To develop mindfulness, we need to train ourselves to observe things more objectively, that is, without our emotions or preconceived ideas influencing our views.

If you’re ready to live a better life, read on for some simple mindfulness practices that you can incorporate into your daily routine to help you live in the moment.

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You don’t have to do all of them, but rather choose the ones that appeal to you and suit your lifestyle.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is the mainstay of developing mindfulness and living in the moment. To practice mindfulness meditation, all you really have to do is sit quietly and follow your breathing. When your mind wanders off, just bring it back to your breath.

Notice how your lungs expand with each in-breath and contract with each out-breath. Let your breathing become relaxed and natural.

You don’t have to do it perfectly. The idea is to start spending time away from the constant sensory stimulation of all your activities, and just allow it to settle down naturally. Start with about 5 to 10 minutes per day and work your way up to about 20 minutes or longer.

This practice is highly effective, and can have both short-term and long-term benefits.

If you want to learn more about mindfulness meditation, take a look at this article: What Is Mindfulness Meditation? 7 Ways to Start Meditating

Mindful Breathing

While this may sound the same as mindfulness meditation, all you’re really doing is taking short breaks occasionally (10 to 15 seconds) to observe your breathing. Stop whatever you’re doing, and take a few mindful breaths, then resume your activity. That’s it.

You can do mindful breathing at any time of the day during your busy schedule. What it does is interrupt the acceleration of your mind. It is like taking your foot off the accelerator while driving. It’s a nice refreshing break you can take without anyone noticing.

Here’re some breathing exercises you can try to learn: 5 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly)

Mindful Walking

Walking is an activity that you perform several times throughout the day. We often think we’re being productive by texting or calling someone while walking. But are we really?

Instead of getting on your cell phone or letting your mind wander off, why not use your walking to train yourself to live in the moment and focus on the task at hand?

Mindful walking is similar to mindful breathing, but instead of focusing on your breath, focus on your walking. Pay attention to each footstep. Also, notice the different motions of your arms, legs, and torso. When your mind wanders off, just bring your attention back to your walking.

You can even make a meditation out of walking. That is, go walking for a few minutes outside. Start by slowing down your pace. If you slow down your body, your mind will follow.

In addition to paying attention to your walking, notice the trees, sunshine, and critters. A mindful walk is enjoyable and can really help your mind settle down.

You can discover more benefits of walking in nature here.

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Mindful Eating

Eating is an activity that most of us perform mindlessly. The reason is that it doesn’t require your attention to perform. Therefore, many of us try to multitask while we eat. We may talk on the phone, text, watch TV, or even hold a meeting.

The problem with not eating mindfully is that we don’t eat what our body and mind need to perform at an optimal level[6]. We may eat unhealthy foods, or too much. This can lead to various health problems, especially as we get older.

Live in the present with mindful eating.

    Mindful eating has many health benefits, such as reduced food cravings, better digestion, and even weight loss[7].

    So how do you eat mindfully? Start by slowing down, and avoid the temptation to distract yourself with another activity. Here are 3 different aspects of eating where you can practice mindfulness:

    • Eating itself: Focus your attention on choosing a portion of food to insert into your mouth. Notice the smell, flavor, and texture as you chew it; then finally swallow it. As with following your breath during meditation, pay close attention to every aspect of eating.
    • Choice of foods: Although you’ve already chosen your food before you have begun eating, you can still take the opportunity to contemplate your choices. Think about the nutrients your body needs to sustain itself.
    • Contemplating the sources: Most of us don’t think about all the work it takes to provide us with the food we eat. While you’re eating, consider all the work by the farmer, shipping company, and the grocery store. These are real people who worked hard to provide you with the food necessary for your survival.

    You can find more tips about mindful eating here: 7 Simple Steps to Mindful Eating

    Mindful Activities

    Choose an activity that you perform regularly, such as washing dishes. Focus all your attention on this activity, and resist the temptation to let your mind wander,. When it does, just bring your attention back to washing dishes.

    Notice some of the specific movements or sensations of washing dishes, such as how the soapy water feels on your hands, the circular motion of scrubbing the dish, or the rinsing. You’d be surprised at how such a mundane activity can truly expand your awareness.

    You can choose any activity you like, such as ironing, folding clothes, mowing the lawn, or showering. Over time, you will begin doing all these activities with greater mindfulness.

    Final Thoughts

    Practicing mindfulness is like regularly putting small amounts of change in a jar. They will all add up over time, and this will add up to greater peace and happiness, as well as get you closer to achieving your goals.

    Remember, you don’t have to do the mindfulness practices perfectly to get the benefits. All you have to do is keep bringing your mind back to the present moment when it wanders off.

    Practicing mindfulness may be a bit challenging in the beginning, but I can assure you it will get easier.

    The benefits of living in the moment are well within your reach, no matter how much your mind is racing. If you stick with these mindfulness practices, you too will learn how to live in the moment and stop worrying. When you do, a whole new world will open up for you. This is what Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh calls the ultimate reality.

    More About Living in the Present

    Featured photo credit: Smile Su via unsplash.com

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